Old Sugar Distillery in Wisconsin is home to a number of spirits (including this rum), but none is more unusual than Queen Jennie, a whiskey made of 100% Wisconsin sorghum.
Sorghum isn’t made into whiskey the same way corn or rye might be. Rather, the grassy sorghum (most typically used as animal feed) is squeezed much like sugar cane into a syrup. This syrup, when fermented, serves the basis for a “whiskey” much in the way that molasses is turned into rum. (In fact, labeling Queen Jennie a whiskey instead of something else is now a matter of some debate.) It is finished in small Minnesota oak barrels, but no age statement is offered.
Queen Jennie (named after Jennie Justo, a famous female bootlegger that served Madison during Prohibition) would easily pass as rum in a blind tasting. Gold in color, it features a nose of nuts and brown sugar, with only the lightest hint of grain influence. On the palate, more of the same. Vanilla caramel and marshmallow are at play as well, the only hint of whiskeydom being a more forward wood character on the finish than you typically get with well-aged rums.
Is it whiskey? Not as you’re likely to think of it. But is it good? Surprisingly, yeah. Up front it’s silky sweet, but that barrel-focused finish makes you think twice about it. Pour a bit for your rum-obsessed friends and ask them what they think. The puzzled expressions and halting commentary will likely leave them begging for more information… which you may or may not choose to share.
B+ / $40 / madisondistillery.com